Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Joe Green

Bell Book and Candle

I always liked Kim Novak
In “Bell Book and Candle”
Curled up on that couch
Which you would describe as
Immensely red but you are wrong
For the colors that show best by candlelight
Are (she tells you) white, carnation and
And a kind of sea water green
And Pyewacket that lucky cat
Curled up next to you green eyes
And a sardonic glance
And you reach for the silver cigarette lighter
Man, you are as shaky as Jimmy Stewart
And it is Christmas! Christmas!
And you know she is a witch and
You want to ask her
Why she well… has a tree…Let the room
Abound in light especially
Colored and varied
Or something like that.  Witch?  Christmas?
And she gets up and is on
Tiptoes placing the ornament just so
(“oes and spangs as they are of no great cost”)
On the tree and she knows what you are
Looking at. She knows.

Christmas?  But if you ask she’ll say
Something like “The best art is general”
Which, really, you haven’t heard before
And she turns and the doors to the balcony
Open and snow swirls you out and you
Are both on the balcony.   Manhattan!
And you know that Gene Kelly is
There somewhere feeling just a bit blue
But will anyway dance his way into
Someone’s heart tonight and snow is
Steepling on the Chrysler Building and
There is giant impossible yellow moon
And she is there and you

Know this poem ain’t going to end the way
You want it to.


Oh, My

September 30, 1968
The New Jersey was bombarding the DMZ
But what the hell did we know about that
And even grey eyed Pallas Athene
So far away from home?

We were in Quong Tre province
Right or someplace like that and
Had taken a lot of casualties.

Flying in and that was when
Wars were really fucked up.
And just 20 years ago and now?
And all that jive doesn’t have the
Same whatever.

You know…Used to be you would be sitting
In a bar someplace and you would
Hear them… all those names like poetry
Pleiku,  An Khe,  Ban Me Thuot
LZ Blackhawk,  LZ Hardtimes
Happy Valley,  Phu Cat
And the guys they always look like the same
At least to you… and the stories…

“We were in Quong Tre which
Is up north and we were in
The bush and nervous  a ambush
Remember the claymores said
This side towards enemy
And thank fucking God for
That some of these guys were stoned
All the damn time so then we heard
This noise behind us and then nothing
And then this noise again so I got
Spooked we had these Remington
Full Auto shotguns which you could
Buy on the black market in Saigon
And I just turned around and fucking
Let it go and we heard screams like I never
Heard!  That was something big!
“What the fuck was that? “ we shouted… deaf
Of course and this guy… what was his name?
The guy who died of sunstroke later
From Arkansas… he went and saw
“It’s a fucking tiger man!” he shouted.
And it was you know.
I killed a lot of guys in Nam
But I never cried except then.”

And these guys go out and
You follow them and they kind of
Slob their way into the car
And you want to say Hey I heard
That fucking story twice already
How many goddamn tigers were there in Nam?
But you saw something…

Not then.  But before… two guys who were
There together one to the other
Trying to remember the name of
Another guy who was killed and
Before that telling their stories…
They made this kind of
Sign to each other which meant
“I’m there, man. I’m there.” But trying to
remember there was nothing, trying
To remember the name there was nothing
So this was true. This was true.

The poems that you read
All so typical... the dead soldiers’  ghosts
Returning to their girlfriends and wives
Years later and looking on them the silent dead
Looking on “Ladies who were lovely once.”

And so in some Greek bar way BC
Two guys drink wine or whatever
And say there is a third guy there
You should have been with us
On the Anabasis those damn Persians
You do an Anabasis you know
When you shout the sea! the sea! it is right.
And who was that guy who got killed in Naxos
You know…?

And really they don’t remember
And they slob into their chariot or whatever

And we were in Quong Tre province
Or something like that.
Oh, my.

Joe Green was born in 1948 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and yet lives.  He is the author of three books of poetry: The Dark Bark: Poetry and Song of Rin Tin Tin, The Diamond at the End of Time, and (with Tim Smith) The Limerick Homer and has also written one 2.7 pound novel: The Chains of the Sea.  He has poems published in Fulcrum, The Battersea Review and some other places and many of his poems have been translated into Russian. 

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